There have been quite a few questions about diary zoning lately so I thought I would share my experience of what has worked for me. About a year ago I was getting frustrated with how my diary was running. I had recently successfully implemented a change from a 15 minute diary base time up to 20 minutes. This was working well to allow me to have more time to discuss treatments in greater detail and take more photos. It also meant that I had been able to increase some of my treatment times from 30 to 40 minutes and I felt like I was able to push the quality of my work higher. But I was getting frustrated that many days were still full of back to back exams and if I wanted to find time for a long complex treatment appt it either required booking months in advance or opening an extra day. I also struggled to find time for emergencies everyday.
So I gathered a few opinions about how to overcome these challenges and researched diary zoning. A lot of my decisions were based on this handout I found from Horton consulting. The 2 key elements I built my zoning on was a careful analysis of how much of my time was spent doing exams vs treatment; and working out what time of day I wanted to be doing different things.
The first thing I did was create a spreadsheet allowing me to measure my time split. I looked through every day for the previous 6 months and added up the time spent doing exams and the time spent doing treatments. I also measured the time split of NHS vs private but that is for another ramble. The hard fact from this was that almost exactly 50% of my time is spent doing exams. As my normal day is from 8-5 with an hour allocated for lunch that basically means I could either choose to do those exams all morning or all afternoon. I decided that I wanted to do exams in the afternoon because that would mean I am doing the more mentally taxing treatments when I had most energy earlier in the day and could then have a more relaxed afternoon. However I did decide to alter this base plan slightly. To break up the morning slightly and give flexibility I allowed one hour each morning for exams. The exact position of this hour slot varies from day to day. Sometimes it is first thing, sometimes 9-10. Then to compensate for this I have a 40 minute slot reserved at the end of each day to be used only for new pt consultations so that new pts don't have to wait a long time to be seen. If this slot has not been used 36 hours before then it becomes an extra emergency slot.
So in summary my day tends to be:
4.20-5pm New pt slot or emergencies
There are ways you can add extra layers of complexity as discussed in the handout, and it is worth pointing out that if multiple dentists wish to zone their diary you may want to have some of them mirror this approach so that not everyone is doing the same thing at the same time but I have found this setup really works for me. I have more time for treatments and an opening fewer extra days and feel less stressed with "managing" my own diary.
The diary photo shows an example of a "standard day" as it currently works. The "bite registration" zones are additional emergency slots. The pink new pt slot is earlier here as we close at 4pm on Fridays rather than 5pm.
Dr Chris Harper